I don’t consider myself a seasoned traveler, but I fly often enough to know the hassle. Airports are stressful and hectic places these days. However, one contingent of our family lives way up north, a grueling drive of nearly twelve hours from home to grandkids. When I get a hankering to visit them, the thought of a seemingly endless highway voyage outweighs the airport inconveniences, and so I warily submit to wandering aimlessly through the mazes of the modern airport.
Once check-in has been tackled, I can look forward to my favorite part of flying…take-off! Sitting on the runway, as the engines start to race, I’m a little kid again. If I could afford preferred boarding, I’d use it every time, just for a window seat. As it is, I have to lean forward to see out of the window, past the guy in the window seat. I crane my neck and survey the view, happily observing the shrinking cars, buildings, and landforms, until they’re too small to see (or until my neck gets soar, or the person by the window turns to give me a look of annoyance…whichever comes first). Of course there are times when the fun is fairly short-lived, and then we’re in the clouds. Usually they’re the white and wispy variety, and I observe their outstretched tentacles grasping the end of the wing before it, too, is swallowed up, and the show is over.
On occasion, we might hit rough weather, and then the heavenly haze isn’t so friendly to travelers. If you’re unfortunate enough to fly on a stormy day, you’ll experience the tangible turbulence of thunderheads. However, it’s just a matter of following directions, staying seated and buckled-in, and riding it out. Even in the roughest of flights, we all come out fine on the other side, finally breaking through the white-out into the sunlight, drifting on a cottony layer of vapor, with all traces of the tempest a thing of the past.
Putting My Trust in Others
Whichever the case, the sudden loss of visibility never worries me. I simply put my life, and my trust, in the hands of the flight crew, who are guided by man-made instruments to lead us through the danger zone, into the great beyond, and safely to our destination. I wish that I could say it’s just as easy for me to travel through the dark times in my day-to-day life, placing my trust in God, knowing that he’ll pull me through, more skillfully than any pilot’s hands could ever do, but lately, my faith in God has wavered.
Recently, the blinding clouds have settled in, by way of chronic illness. I had been suffering for a while, but still able to hold down a job and make it through each day. All that time I was praying fervently for healing, but instead, I grew worse, and life as I knew it came to a screeching halt. I feel like I’m on a treacherous voyage, not knowing what lies ahead, and brazenly questioning the Pilot’s flight plan.
Asking the Wrong Questions
I keep asking why. Why can’t I be healed? Why now, when we need my income to keep our heads above water? Why an illness that can only be treated by alternative practitioners (meaning no insurance accepted, and skeptical family members to appease)? Why, why, WHY?! Reflecting long and hard on my experience of flying, and the trust that I exhibit in pilots, I finally realized that I am asking the wrong questions. The one “why” question I need to focus on is this, “Why can’t I trust in God’s plan to carry me to my destination, just as easily as I trust the science and skill of man?”
I realize now that I have to step back from my limited, human understanding, and believe that God will bring some good from my life’s toil, just as he brought the greatest good from the evil of his Son’s crucifixion. When suffering comes, our limited understanding will always question it, and search for answers. I finally found my answer, in the writings of an Old Testament prophet: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. As high as the heavens are above the earth, so high are my ways above your ways and my thoughts above your thoughts. For just as from the heavens the rain and snow come down and do not return there till they have watered the earth, making it fertile and fruitful, giving seed to him who sows, and bread to him who eats, so shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; It shall not return to me void, but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:8-11).
Rising Above the Clouds
I read those words, and the tears began to flow from my eyes. I am suddenly so ashamed of my sniveling attitude. Over the past few months, I have given very little thought to the will of God, and how my life will be used to achieve “his end.” It’s time to redirect my focus. Lent is upon us, and I set a goal for some serious study of the Cross and discerning how I can do better at carrying my own. What time of year could be more fitting for such an endeavor?! The Holy Spirit has made it clear to me that my faith foundation needs some shoring up, so I amassed Lenten reading materials—saint biographies, spiritual writings, and papal encyclicals and letters. I must put my trust in God’s mighty and merciful plan, in the hope that one day, I will rise above the clouds, far higher than any man-made craft has ever flown, and find myself in the place where the Light of love abides, and the weary traveler’s soul finds rest, understanding at last that it has achieved the end for which it was sent.